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we are steadfastly standing against this. persevering and challenging, it is something that syria has inherited. we will go with syria and take syria to a stronger, and we will go forward. we will not be intimidated by bullets or intimidation. we have the right. god is always with the right. and may god be with you. [applause] [chanting] >> our coverage will continue. president assad being greeted by his supporters at the opera
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house in damascus. they have been chanting, "with our soul and blood, we will defend you, assad." [captioning performed by national captioning institute] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2013] lex a discussion about defense spending in us national security. at 9:30 a.m. one c- span2. >> c-span is thorough. almost every program is available on c-span. it will be about coverage and
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debate on the floor. >> she watches c-span on comcast. 1979, rockeded abouin to you at the public service by your television provider. >> this week on "q&a," author and historian timothy naftali discusses the oral history he conducted as the director of the richard nixon presidential library and museum from 2007 to 2011. >> how would you describe your effort to put nixon on the record, on tape? >> i had the challenge at the federal government was taking
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over a private museum and library. i was asked to be the first federal director. this was a library that was in place for 17 years. roughly 100,000 people visited a year. in addition, 10,000 schoolchildren. it had a certain message -- when you run a private institution, you have a right to any message you want. when it becomes a national institution it has to meet a different standard. i knew that one of my jobs was to change the museum, in particular i was to change the watergate gallery. how do you do that? after a local community was accustomed to one particular description -- a museum might be a national museum but it is also a local neighbor. >> this is in california. >> yorba linda, california. i thought the best way -- i was a trained historian. i was not a nixon specialist --
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was for the players, key people living from that era to tell the story themselves. i thought the best way to do this was to start a video and oral history program that involves nixon players and also players in the watergate drama from the left and the right, to have them tell the story and use portions of the story in the museum to let visitors understand the complexity of this constitutional drama. the video oral history program was designed initially to help renovate the museum. what happens is it developed and acquired a momentum all of the sun. i never anticipated ultimately overseeing 149 of them. i had a very good assistant -- paul musgrave, who worked with me for three years. it became clear that there were a lot of folks that wanted to talk about that period since the nixon library had been
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private -- it had not gotten the treatment a regular presidential library would have had. for example, neither the private library nor the nixon project in washington had run a full-scale oral history program. it was ripe for the doing. as it became clear people wanted to participate, it grew to be a much bigger initiatives and i had imagined. >> what was the time frame? >> i started it as soon as i started the job. i became -- i joined the national archives in october of 2006. i ran the federal nixon project until the library transferred to the federal government in 2007. i started the history with an interview right at the end of 2006.
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i did oral histories until i left in november 2011. >> this hour has no rhyme or reason to it -- the clips were chosen by producers. the objective is just to show the audience a little bit and get you to explain them. before we start, i want to show video tape from 1973 -- alexander butterfield testifying before the watergate commission. >> i was aware of listening devices. >> when were those devices first in the oval office? >> approximately the summer of 1970. i cannot begin to recall the precise date. my guess is that the installation was made between, and this is a very rough guess, april or may of 1970 and perhaps the end of the summer or early fall.
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>> were you aware of any device is installed in the executive office building of the president? >> yes, sir. >> he was a senator and an actor and was the counsel for the republicans. where did you find alexander butterfield? >> some of them found through google people who knew people. we put out the word we were doing this. initially, the nixon foundation, the private foundation, provided the funding for the first ones we did. i was very upfront about what we were doing -- i promised the nixon foundation and the federal government that we would do a non-partisan oral history program. >> we do not see in these interviews. >> it is by choice. i remember going to a los
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angeles festival -- halberstam, this was 2005, before i got that job -- he was talking about the best interviews. he said the best interviewer disappears. i thought, what i would do would be to disappear. my job would be to help the interviewee recall of dense, encourage them in creating a zone of comfort, but to disappear. the goal was for this to be video that could be used for documentary's in the future as well as for use in the museum. you do not want to see me. >> here it is alexander butterfield -- you interviewed him back in 2008. today he is 86 years old. >> he did not go back to the residents very often. when he left the office he went to the eob and had dinner over
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there. four nights out of five. he only went to the residence if the young people were coming over, the children, with their spouses or boyfriend or girlfriend -- someone who is going to be there. otherwise, when he left the office around 7:00, the oval office, he went to his eob office across the street. they would fix him a drink, usually, scotch. they might start with a red wine. only two things he drank. he did not drink a lot. he had one cocktail and then red wine with dinner. he sat there just the way you are sitting there with his coat on. he never took his coat off. never took his jacket off. even on the hottest washington night. in a chair -- he wrote with his yellow pad. ideas, things that would be relayed the following morning.
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then he would eat his dinner at a little table and have his wine and he might go down and bowl a line. there was the single lane bowling alley in the eob -- and he would go home at 10:30. i never went home until he went to the residence. >> what you think of when you watch the former military man, mr. butterfield? >> one of the things that we do not -- those of us outside of the white house -- we do not really know how it works. to have the people who were with richard nixon describe the day is priceless. we had the tapes, but we do not know what is going on around the tapes. it was not just butterfield -- you have colson, glen garmond, folks talking about what it was like. that is priceless. that is the part of history that gives it context and meaning but then disappears.
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it is often not written down. one of the byproducts of these interviews -- i let the tape run. i let people, even if it was somewhat rambling, let people think and recall and speak. what you get out of it is color -- it is preserved forever. one of the things that was very important to me is i had experienced oral history -- out of the miller center at the university of virginia. james young was conducting a program there and i was one of the interviewers. the way it was run by the miller center -- it was not their fault, just the deal they had struck -- the private foundation took control over the interviews and people could edit them. i know this for a fact because i participated with in interviews that were then edited. once you edit an interview, the tape, an audio or video tape, becomes useless.
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you cannot serve it to the public anymore. when i went to the national archives, i worked with the lawyers and said, i do not want that. i had the participants sign a deed that is not giving the right to edit it. the participant knew this in advance. but the fact of the matter is that if we did not do that you could not use these interviews. and i want there to be a sense of comfort, a sense of respect, and professionalism, that will allow people to continue to tell stories and the stories will be preserved forever. >> i want to run another alexander butterfield clip. he is talking about the taping system he set up in the white house. what would you say the result did? >> richard nixon's resignation was the result -- >> what is that background we are looking at?
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>> actually, that was paul musgrave who did it. we decided we would use for the first interviews the standard collapsible backdrop. we interviewed people where they wanted to be interviewed. we did not have a studio. i did one interview with in the studio, but by and large we did not have a studio. we hired professional videographers and we needed a background. we thought it would be cool if it was always the same backdrop. we later discovered that change in the backdrop is a good thing. today, they will notice a lot of different backdrops. >> he said, make sure nobody knows -- nobody. and that was set a couple of times later. he and the president and i talked about it. there was never any doubt in my mind, although no one told me in so many words -- there was
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no sinister purpose to the tapes. i sensed it was for the memoir -- that would be valuable. i went to him a couple times later, much later, when these things were accumulating so fast -- the secret service would come to me and say, we are having a look for a new place to put the tips. i said, we ought to have a couple secretaries on the fourth floor of the eob and type it out long. this is a career here. all day, every day. he said, a good idea, but we never did that. it had to be a mammoth job. >> did you ever get a sense of what happened? the gap? >> i have a theory. i had to look into that because there is a section in the watergate gallery about it. i was astonished to hear that the tape -- the gap is in a tape from the summer of 1972.
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june of 1972. rose mary woods took the tape to camp david. she also took the tape -- there are a number of people who could have erased it. the u.s. government hired a group of audio specialists to listen to the tape, to be erased portion. they concluded it could not have been an accidental erasure. there are too many starts and stops. it sounds to the educated year as if this has been erased eight times. someone in camp david or elsewhere erased it. i often wondered if it wasn't one person --
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>> was? >> his dear friend and totally deniable. >> if the audience is frustrated by these little clips, the whole interviews are available on our website and the archive and the nixon library. >> you can get them at nixonlibrary.gov. >> the interview -- where did you do it? >> the library. one of the things, if you watch these, there is the story of the role woodward and bernstein played. the role the house played and the senate played. the prosecutors, his army of prosecutors. do not forget the role played by republicans in the nixon administration. he was one of them -- he was not alone. we would hear from a few more. >> here he is -- he was at the
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time? >> deputy attorney general of the united states. >> it was clear he was not going to carry out that order. he turned to me and said, what are you going to do? i told him -- i do not think it is close. what he is asking and apparently subsequently needed to do was fundamentally wrong. he said, you do not have any choice if you refuse to do it -- that means they will find somebody else to do it. if bork had not done it, anybody in the department could have done it. your responsibility was fairly clear -- i do not think he resigned lightly. you do have an obligation.
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there are lines over which you cannot cross. you have to -- sometimes you will not do. >> this is really important. i did my best to interview as many surviving players in the saturday night massacre -- your audience may not now what do you here is talking about, but president nixon wanted to fire the special prosecutor archibald cox. he ordered the attorney general of the united states to do it and he would not. the next person in line was ruckelshaus, and he would not do it. elliot richardson had died by the time i was in the job, but ruckelshaus was alive and judge bork was involved in the story. for many of those who
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participated or witnessed the event, this was the closest the country had come to a major constitutional crisis. the president of the united states was firing the official who was looking into his misdeeds. >> archibald cox. >> the question was, in a democracy, a republic where you have a responsible government, can the president fire somebody who is about to prosecute him for wrongdoing? >> here is a recording of one jill wine-banks -- who was she? >> a magnificent, a great interview -- this is the example of where the backdrop changes and it really helps. she was part of archibald cox's team. she was one of the few female prosecutors. this is an era when there is a glass ceiling, unfortunately --
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she was ultimately the one who opposes rose mary woods on the whole issue. she is the one who asked for questions in court. here she is talking, i believe, about the saturday night massacre when she learns that archibald cox has been fired. her reaction is startling and shows the kind of attention these people went through in that period. >> the big discussion that i remember was, what is richard nixon going to do? it was particularly relevant because we were working basically seven days a week. i had a family wedding in new york that night -- the night of the press conference. i said, i cannot go, i have to stay here. after much discussion we said, what could he do? in order to fire archie he would have to fire the attorney
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general, and he would never do that. so this could not be okay -- he is going to cave in. so i went to new york right after the press conference. when i came back from the wedding, the hotel, literally the desk clerk was waiting for me and sort of leaped over the counter and said, there is a message for you. the fbi has seized your office. i called george frampton -- he was the one i could reach. i got on a flight the next morning to participate in discussions of what the office should do. what happened is he fired archie -- he did not fire us. there was a lot of discussion of, do we quit in protest or do we say, ok, archie is gone but we are still here. we need to do my job and we need to stay. he will have to make a second
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big public-relations error by firing us. >> what did he do? >> what happened is that they closed the office for a nanosecond and then they reopened it and robert bork, who was then solicitor general and acting attorney general because everybody above him had been fired or had resigned, he became the head of this, of this special prosecutor's office. i interviewed him -- he said, i was nervous because i could be charged with obstruction of justice. he kept it alive and they hired someone else, a texas democrat -- nixon hired him to replace archibald cox. in the end he would be even tougher on richard nixon. >> did jill wine-banks work for
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him? >> she stayed, as did the rest of the team. >> how long were your interviews? >> most of them about two hours. sometimes they went under. sometimes they were shorter. the shortest one was with a very busy senator kerry. i asked him about vietnam and his work in the vietnam veterans against the war -- that was 23 minutes. the longest i had -- a couple of sessions with colson on different days and also ray price. six hours. >> who said no? >> henry kissinger. i was moderating a panel with him at whittier college. we were in the greenroom, which was not green -- greenrooms are rarely green. i was trying to be fair to him, so i let him know what kinds of questions i would ask. we went on stage and he did not
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answer any of them and afterward he turned to me and said, i did not answer any of your questions, but you try hard. he made it clear to me he was never going to do a video oral history about this. he said no, gordon said no -- a very important watergate figure. he had not told his full story -- he would not do it. >> a lawyer? >> a lawyer. he was indicted but not convicted. he was -- the chief of staff, richard nixon's chief of staff, he was his point person to the committee to reelect the president. he was the one who could say to him, to g. gordon liddy, that the espionage plan had been approved. he knew what he tells nixon knew about the liddy plan. he would not do it. sadly, pat buchanan -- i tried very hard to get pat buchanan to do it.
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he would not do it. >> robert bork, acting attorney general at the time -- this is an issue. he is 85, still here with us. this is the issue of spiro agnew. >> one of the things that happens is you learn things -- i thought in the beginning i was going to hear stories that many of them had said to the history channel. when you do an interview for the government, it becomes public domain. i was keen on creating free video -- it belongs to everybody now. i assumed they would tell stories that are in proprietary collections. what we started to get worse stories i had never heard. this is one of them -- this is unbelievable. this is bork talking about how he and the attorney general at that point, elliott richardson, are afraid that richard nixon is not going to go ahead with the prosecution of vice president spiro agnew. spiro agnew -- this started out in maryland but there was a
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maryland prosecutor who discovered that agnew as governor had been taking bribes. he continued to take bribes even when he was in the office of the vice president. apparently this was an open and shut case. there was so much evidence, you could not walk away from this. richardson had to prosecute him. >> the attorney general. >> the point is, this has nothing to do with watergate, but the timing is it happens during watergate, 1973. specifically in the first half of 1973. >> he says, let's go see the president. on the way down the hall, we
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have to go to the men's room. we go in the men's room and turn on all the faucets -- for the listening devices. you had no idea when something was listening to you or not. so he turned on the faucets and whispered to each other -- i think it is a resignation issue. he said, i think it is. so we turned off the faucets and went to the president. a resignation issue is a hard one to deal with. you cannot walk in and say to the president, do this or i will resign. he will make you resign. >> where did you do that? >> in his home -- it was fantastic. he seemed very ill at the time. he was still with us, but this is four years ago. he is a chain smoker and asked
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me if it would be ok to smoke. i love film noir, so i let -- there are moments when the smoke swirls around his head. makes for a nice interview. he was fascinating. he really wanted to do this. the interview lasted 2 hours. >> did you ask him why he stayed and fired archibald cox? >> he is a complex figure but we may get into the issue of my own personal views. i never wanted my views to be part of the theme. bork is somebody whose work i found troubling, to say the least. >> as a judge? >> as a judge -- it is not my business. i was working for the government and it does not matter what i think. i will tell you, i was so impressed with in the interview -- what a mind. even if i disagree, what a mind.
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he has had a bad rap for the massacre -- it is ruckelshaus and a few others. i interviewed john more -- richardson and ruckelshaus implored bork to stay. bork had a different legal theory about what the president could and could not do. bork wanted to resign and go back to yale. he was convinced his college would never forgive him. ruckelshaus and richardson said, if you resign nobody is running this place. they were very afraid that alexander hague, somebody he mistrusted, would choose a new attorney general who would be a disaster. they said, and they really put pressure on bork to stay.
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bork describes it, but the beauty of these oral histories is you will see corroborating evidence from other people who do not have the same stake as bork in his reputation. >> what are you doing now? >> i am an independent historian. i had a book about kennedy i was meaning to write -- and needed time to write it. i have a couple of books i am working on now. >> when did you leave the library? >> november 2011. >> next is william safire. he is jewish. he was an observer and -- tell us what you -- >> this for me is hard. this is heartbreaking. he was really mad at me. >> for the interview? >> afterwards. i had a terrible conversation with william safire about a
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month before he died. >> died at 79. >> he was so angry i had invited john dean to the library. i explained to him that in order to establish this as a nonpartisan space that people would take seriously as a research center -- the fight there had been over access to the tapes, missing tapes, the documents -- it is essential to establish beyond any doubt that this was a non-partisan issue. i thought it was important that john dean, an important player in the watergate scandal, comes to the library and speaks. safire was furious. i was talking to him because i invited him to do a master class. every summer we had national interns -- we had a national competition and said two students, come to the nixon library. we are changing this -- be part of this experiment.
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we got great applications. 15 times the number of students we needed. one of the things i did was i brought these people for students to interact. i wanted safire to come and it was terrible -- he said he will not do this, because for him to come to the library is to condone what i'm doing. it was not a pleasant discussion. the interview was alright -- before john dean's visit. the interview was alright except when i asked him about when he had been wiretapped. very uncomfortable. but most of the interview was very good. >> explain the jewish connection. >> i found -- i asked everybody about everything. if you watch the interview i did with fred malek -- it was very hard for me because i was going to ask him, president
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nixon ordered a list of all jews in the federal government. he told them, we have this on tape, that jews are disloyal -- american jews are disloyal. it is a horrible tape. he ordered this. the order was truncated and became an order to list all the jews in the bureau of labor statistics, which is the part of the labor department that is responsible for the unemployment figures. fred malek was tasked with doing this. i did ask him about it -- how do you broach the subject? after i had done that, and he speaks about it, i made a point of finding as many people who could talk on this issue as possible and talk on the issue of the role of jews in the nixon administration. but and there was a real divide among the jewish americans who
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were in the nixon administration. some are convinced richard nixon was an anti-semite. some thought he was not. william safire was among those who thought he was not. >> he was a "new york times" columnist for years. >> when you ask, does it affect your opinion of nixon -- some. it was disappointing, but he was not anti-semitic. to be anti-semitic means to hate jews. >> how would you explain these discussions, ultimately, concerns about jews in the bureau of labor statistics? how do you explain it? >> he saw jews as liberals, as new yorkers. he would look at me and others

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CSPAN January 7, 2013 5:55am-6:30am EST

Timothy Naftali News/Business. (2013) Author and historian Timothy Naftali discusses the project he conducted.

TOPIC FREQUENCY Us 6, Alexander Butterfield 4, Richard Nixon 4, Syria 3, Spiro Agnew 3, Richardson 3, Bork 3, William Safire 3, Nixon Administration 2, Paul Musgrave 2, California 2, Washington 2, Assad 2, Maryland 2, Vietnam 2, John Dean 2, Pat Buchanan 2, Robert Bork 2, Fred Malek 2, Safire 2
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